With Jermain Defoe on the sidelines, Gilberto will get his chance to shine for Toronto FC.
The 25-year-old Brazilian has three goals in 16 appearances, including 11 starts in an uneven MLS debut season. Team officials have pointed to niggling injuries and the gap between the close of the Brazilian season and the start of the MLS year as contributing to his slow start.
But he has shown signs of life recently and produced a fine goal in a 2-0 win over Montreal on the weekend, starting in place of the injured Defoe up front with England’s Luke Moore.
The team announced Monday that scans revealed Defoe had suffered a groin strain and would be out two to three weeks. In truth, it could have been a worse prognosis, with talk of a possible sports hernia.
Defoe, who joined Toronto in January from England’s Spurs, leads the MLS team with 11 goals to rank fifth in the league.
Midfielder Michael Bradley, in Portland for the MLS all-star game, says Gilberto has the whole team behind him.
“Even at the beginning when things weren’t necessarily coming so easy for him in terms of goals, he’s a guy who we’ve had all the faith in the world in,” Bradley said Monday after practice at the Portland Timbers’ suburban training facility. “When you see him come in every day and you see how much it means to him and you see how hard he works, when you see what kind of guy he is, then there’s no issues.
“Obviously for a forward, the pressure is to score goals and you know when a forward goes though a stretch when he’s not scoring, that can be hard. But like I said on our end, there was and is complete faith in him and what he’s all about. I think what we see now is just the beginning.”
Gilberto has worked hard for the team when he has played, often dropping back to help trigger an attack. The five-foot-10 154-pounder also endured some poor fortune in front of goal earlier in the season.
Toronto, which plays the Crew in Columbus on Saturday, is somewhat short on forwards with Bright Dike still rehabbing an Achilles injury.
If he needs more help up front, manager Ryan Nelsen can play Dominic Oduro at forward or call on Andrew Wiedeman and veteran attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario.